You need to pause and get clear on what you want.
Learning your spouse has had or is having an affair is earth-shattering. In an instant, the implicit trust you’ve given them – and built your life upon – evaporates. And, shell-shocked, you’re left wondering how to survive infidelity and betrayal and move forward.
When you discover your spouse has lied to you about their fidelity, it’s natural to wonder what else they’ve been duplicitous about. When you’re married, it’s also natural to define yourself in terms of your marriage.
So, it makes sense that when you discover that your marriage wasn’t what you thought it was, you seriously question how you’ll survive and what is real.
And the only way to begin answering these questions for yourself is to gain clarity on what has happened, what it means to you, and what you want for your life.
What is the difference between infidelity and betrayal?
According to the dictionary, infidelity is the action or state of being unfaithful to a spouse or other sexual partner. In other words, infidelity is about sex.
Wikipedia defines betrayal in this way: Betrayal is the breaking or violation of a presumptive contract, trust, or confidence that produces moral and psychological conflict within a relationship…
By being unfaithful, your spouse has betrayed you. And there are moral and psychological repercussions for the two of you and everyone else involved.
There’s no one way to deal with your spouse’s disregard for your marriage and monogamy. Some betrayed spouses choose to end their marriage. And some couples choose to look at creating a new marriage for themselves from the ashes of the previous one.
Neither of these paths forward are easy. And neither is the choice between them. Yet you will need to choose a way forward if you’re to be successful in your quest to survive infidelity and betrayal.
What percentage of marriages survive infidelity?
According to NPR, about 40 percent of American marriages are shaken to their cores by affairs. And of those marriages, more than half survive the infidelity.
Yet, just because other people make their marriages work after the betrayal of adultery, that doesn’t mean it’s in your best interest to make your marriage work.
You’ll need to decide what’s best for you and your situation.
How to survive infidelity and betrayal by choosing to make your marriage work
There are definitely good reasons for you to decide to save your marriage.
- You have children together.
- You have significant shared property.
- You have been together for a long time.
- You both love each other and are determined to do what it takes to make things right again.
If this is the path you ultimately choose, both of you will have a lot of work to do on yourselves before your marriage is whole again.
The high-level tasks you’ll need to tackle include:
- Committing to putting in the required effort and energy.
- Being transparent with your spouse about what you’re thinking and feeling.
- Releasing the betrayal.
- Making time to work on intimacy as you become more comfortable with your spouse.
- Being willing to create a new version of your marriage that works for both of you.
These tasks aren’t easy. They’ll require you to explore parts of yourself and your beliefs you’ve never dealt with before.
How to get through the infidelity and betrayal by divorce
On the other hand, there are good reasons to end your marriage too. Some of them include:
- Denial of the problems that led to the infidelity and betrayal.
- Inability to get past the anger and release the betrayal.
- Persistent and consistent feelings of rejection.
If divorce is the truest way for you to move forward from what your spouse has done, you’ll still be faced with a tremendous about of work to do on yourself.
Some guidelines for how to get over a divorce and an affair include:
- Accept that your marriage is over.
- Remember that you didn’t cause the infidelity or betrayal.
- Consider your own role in the marriage.
- Expect to grieve – a lot.
- Fake a smile if you have to.
- Be grateful for every little thing.
- Don’t drown in legalities.
- Set long-term goals.
- Forgive yourself and your ex.
- Take good care of yourself.
Choosing divorce as your path forward from your spouse’s affair is difficult too. There is no one correct answer to getting through betrayal. Yet you do need to move forward.
Ultimately, the only way to survive infidelity and betrayal without betraying yourself is to get clear about what you want. Don’t rush to decide what you want. Take your time to do your research and begin healing.
It’s only when you begin to have an idea of what could lie ahead that you’ll be able to make the best choice for how you want to move forward with your life.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach. I help individuals navigate the repercussions of infidelity. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.
Looking for more information about repairing your marriage? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Surviving Infidelity.
There are definite benefits to knowing what lies ahead.
Divorce is one of the most distressing events you can every experience. Divorce causes pain of such intensity that it’s common to wonder if you can survive it. It’s from this abyss of hurt that you’ll start wondering how to make the aching anguish stop. And you’ll become cautiously curious about whether there are steps to healing after divorce.
And your curiosity about recovering from the end of your marriage is a very, very good thing.
Wanting to know the steps to healing after divorce is a sign of budding courage. It means you’re ready to begin your work to heal your heart instead of remaining mired in the throes of blame and victimhood.
It’s from this place of tentative resolution that knowing the steps to healing after divorce will give you the most benefit.
Benefit 1: Less Anxiety & Stress
Being afraid of the unknown is normal. Having to face the unknown when you’re struggling with the gut-wrenching grief of divorce is downright terrifying.
By knowing what to expect as you put in the effort to heal your heart, you’ll bring clarity to what you’re facing and what still lies ahead of you. And this will start to make your unknown path forward known.
When you can start to put your recovery progress into perspective by knowing the steps to healing after divorce, your anxiety and stress will begin to decrease. You’ll know that you’re on the path to get through this terrible experience. You’ll also know that you can get over it just like everyone else who has ever gotten over the end of their marriage.
Benefit 2: Guidelines To Follow
Grief is unique to each person and to the specific loss being grieved. You may have experienced loss and grief before, but the grief you experience when you divorce will be different. (And even if you’ve divorced before the grief you feel now is different.)
It’s because grief’s unique nature that going through it can feel so isolating and perplexing. However, when you know the steps to getting over your divorce, you’ll find guidelines for healing.
The guidelines will help you better evaluate what you’re doing and know if you’re helping yourself or prolonging your pain. Being able to make these evaluations will help you heal more quickly.
Benefit 3: Know When To Ask For Help
Once you know the steps to healing after divorce, you’ll be able to determine whether you’re making the progress you want. If you find that you’re struggling more than you want, you’ll know when it’s time for you to ask for help.
Asking for help could be as simple as asking a friend for a hug. Or it could mean finding a professional to help you move through whatever step or steps you’re struggling with.
It’s by knowing when to ask for help that you’ll continue along your healing journey instead of getting stuck or delaying your progress.
Reaching the point where you’re courageously curious about the steps to healing after divorce is a milestone in putting the end of your marriage behind you. It signals that now you’re ready to begin bravely creating a new life for yourself instead of remaining a victim of your divorce. It also signals that now you’ll start healing more quickly.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach. I help people just like you heal from divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.
Looking for more information about getting over the end of your marriage? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Healing After Divorce.
Feeling grief long after you’ve healed from your divorce is pretty common.
For the first couple of years of my marriage, my husband noticed that I would get grumpy around Thanksgiving – despite having wonderful plans for the holiday. He finally brought it to my attention. And after some careful thought, I realized I was grumpy because I had married my first husband around Thanksgiving. I had been having a divorce grief relapse each Thanksgiving!
Divorce grief relapses are fairly common. They don’t necessarily mean that you’re not over your divorce. They just signal there’s still a little more accepting you can do to fully heal.
Acceptance is the final stage of grief. The others include denial, pain and fear, bargaining, guilt, and depression. To reach acceptance you experience most if not all these stages – sometimes multiple times.
And the thing about divorce is there is a multitude of things to grieve. Some of these things are obvious and some are less so.
It’s when you get through the known, obvious bits of grief that you’ll typically feel you’re over your divorce. Which is why it can feel so disconcerting to have a divorce grief relapse.
Instead of immediately beginning to worry that maybe you’re not really over your divorce and that you’re headed back to the misery of healing again, here are 5 things you can do to help you deal with an episode of divorce grief relapse:
- Recognize it for what it is.
We all grow and change based on the experiences we have and our reactions to them. When you find yourself grieving again over your divorce after you thought you’d fully moved on, what you’re facing is an opportunity to grow and appreciate yourself more.It’s because you’re in a different place now that you’re able to heal something new. This new thing went undetected when you did all that hard work to get over your divorce.
Now you can heal the nuances of grief that were originally pushed to the side.
Now you can deal with your divorce grief relapse and release baggage you didn’t realize you had.
And when you do, you’ll feel much lighter.
- Be patient with yourself.Just like with the grief you experienced when your marriage ended, you can’t force yourself to get over the grief you’re feeling now. You must choose to go through the hurt and find acceptance again.
The good thing is that this time your entire life isn’t needing to be reorganized while you’re working to find acceptance. Now you can be patient with yourself and focus a bit better. Which will make learning the lesson waiting for you much easier.
- Take care of yourself.Dealing with grief takes effort. Remember how exhausted you felt when you were dealing with your divorce?
Make sure you take care of the basics. Eat well. Drink enough water. Exercise. Get enough sleep. Doing so will help you to manage your life and give you the physical support you need to process your divorce grief relapse.
- Write about it. Research has shown that journaling about your emotions and how you interpret them can help you process them more quickly and lower your distress about them. This can be a powerful tool for you to more quickly come to a new level of acceptance about your divorce.
- Get support.But don’t think you have to do all this work on your own. There are plenty of other people who have been through divorce and a divorce grief relapse or more.
And that’s the key. You want to talk to a friend, family member, or divorce professional who has been through this themselves. They’ll know what it’s like and have practical suggestions for how you can find your way through this blip of grief you’re experiencing.
Having a relapse of divorce grief is a natural part of continued growth and healing after a divorce.
When I dealt with my Thanksgiving-triggered divorce grief relapse, I realized that I felt sorry for the 19-year-old woman/girl who made the decision to get married. She was doing the best she knew how, but she surely didn’t know enough.
Chances are, as you work through your divorce grief relapse, that you’ll discover another facet of yourself too. One that you can feel good about acknowledging and accepting so you can let the grief pass. And get back to living the new, wonderful life that you’ve created for yourself.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach, who works with people just like you who are in search of support discovering things to do when dealing a divorce grief relapse. For free weekly advice, register for my newsletter. If you’d like to explore working with me, you can schedule a private 30-minute consultation with me.
Looking for more help coping with divorce heartbreak? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Dealing With Grief.
You can get through this.
Life after divorce for dads is tough for a multitude of reasons. There’s the grief, anger, hurt, loneliness, and sense of failure. There’s the financial burden of paying for your attorney, and maybe the cost of setting up a new household, spousal maintenance, and child support. And most importantly, life after divorce is tough because you have less time with your kids.
As dismal as all this sounds, by no means is life after divorce for dads a life sentence to this sad state of affairs. This is just where things start out. If you have the courage and will to make your life (and your kids’ lives) better, you can create an amazing life.
Step One: Heal
You must take care of yourself and heal from your divorce. You’ve got to deal with all the uncomfortable emotions that the end of your marriage has stirred up.
It’s only by looking directly at each emotion that engulfs you that you’ll be able to deal with it and put it in its appropriate place. If you don’t work through your feelings about your divorce, you’ll be doomed to carry them with you for the rest of your life. And that will color the rest of your life a gray shade of miserable.
Although you’ll be doing the heavy lifting on this work, that doesn’t mean you have to do it all on your own. There are plenty of people who would be glad to support you: your family, friends, spiritual leader, therapist, divorce coach.
The bonus here as far as life after divorce for dads goes is that as you heal, your kids will notice. And when they believe and see that you’re OK, they’ll be able to heal too.
It’s only after you’ve started regaining your emotional equilibrium that you’ll be able to effectively deal with the other huge challenges of your life instead of just going through the motions.
Step Two: Plan
Just like everything else after divorce, your financial status will change too. The combined income you and your children’s other parent shared is just not there anymore.
Now you’ve got to figure out how you will cover all your expenses, obligations and any debt on your own. And the only way to do this is with a plan and a budget.
Financial stress is difficult for everyone and the sooner you have a plan to overcome your financial stress, the more easily you’ll be able to be fully present when you’re with your kids.
There’s also no reason for you to work through all of this on your own either. Depending on your situation, some of the resources you can tap into include: websites to help you more fully understand all facets of finances, websites to help you budget, financial advisors, and, if you’re ready to ask for a raise, your boss.
Step Three: Parent
Parenting after divorce is different from parenting when you were married. When your children are with you, you’re it – the parent. There’s no tag-teaming like when you were married.
This means that whatever comes up, you’ve got to deal with it.
Parenting after divorce also means that you’re going to be interacting with your children’s other parent. If you’re co-parenting, you’ll be interacting a lot. If you’re parallel parenting, you won’t be interacting as much. And if you have sole custody, you’ll be interacting even less.
Regardless of how often you need to personally interact with your children’s other parent, your children will be thinking about them. So, despite being divorced, the other parent will be part of your life…for the rest of your life.
So you must figure out how to make the relationship with your ex as conflict-free as possible. When you do, you’ll be able to be the kind of dad you want to be. (As, yes this is possible, even if your ex is a bully or narcissist.)
And, you don’t have to figure this out on your own either. Some of the resources you can tap into here include family therapists, individual counselors, other single parents who successfully interact with their exes, and coaches.
When you begin making progress on all three steps, you’ll notice that things aren’t quite as bad as they were in the beginning of the whole divorce thing. And the more progress you make the better things will get.
The unvarnished truth is life after divorce for dads who had the courage to do the work of dealing with their emotions, finances and relationship with their children’s other parent is frickin’ great!
And when you get to the point where you’re loving your life again, you’ll look back and realize it was only possible because you got divorced.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach. I help men navigate life after divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you want to learn more about working with me, you can schedule a 30-minute private consultation with me.
Looking for more information about post-divorce life? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Life After Divorce.
You don’t have to accept the status quo.
How could your life have changed so dramatically? It wasn’t that long ago you were enjoying dreams of happily ever after. And somehow now, after such a beautiful beginning, you’re wondering about simply surviving an unhappy marriage.
Somewhere between then and now you’ve lost the shared dreams along with the ones that were just yours.
The love that once kept both of you bathed in feel-good hormones that made everything OK and helped you work together to find solutions to every challenge has disappeared. And now you’re unhappy – really, dreadfully unhappy.
What Makes A Marriage Unhappy?
There are so many things that can make marriages unhappy. And just like no two people are exactly alike, the reasons why your marriage is unhappy will be unique to you. Some of the common reasons people say they’re unhappy in their marriage include one or more of the following:
It doesn’t matter if the infidelity is physical or emotional, it hurts. And it hurts everyone involved – not just the betrayed and the betrayer. It’s the unhealed pain of infidelity that causes unhappiness.
Abuse in a marriage isn’t only physical. It can be mental, emotional and/or sexual too. And when someone is the victim of abuse by their spouse, it’s impossible to be happily married. (I consider this to be a marriage deal breaker.)
- Anger issues
When a spouse has an anger issue or disorder no one is happy. The spouse with the anger issue struggles to deal with their fury and its side-effects. The other spouse and the rest of the family walk on eggshells in an effort to avoid triggering an anger event.
When one or both spouses feel as if they are unimportant to the one person who committed to love them no matter what, hurt is the natural result. Living with this pain saps the joy from each and every day.
- Substance abuse
When a spouse struggles with active addiction, their behavior is erratic at best and completely destructive at worst. Relationships require a dependability and security to work long-term. Active substance abuse prevents marriages from being fulfilling for either spouse.
- Lying and gaslighting
Good marriages are based in trust. Without trust there’s a zero percent chance for a happy marriage.
- Lost intimacy
Can a marriage survive without intimacy? Maybe. There are some who practice a spiritual or Josephite marriage in which both spouses choose to abstain from sexual activity. But for most people, physical and emotional intimacy are vital parts of a meaningful and happy marriage.
When one spouse consistently tries to control or dominate the other, there’s a feeling of one spouse being superior to the other. At minimum, the spouse being controlled is miserable. But the one doing the dominating is usually just as unhappy.
- Growing apart
When spouses don’t make the effort and take the time to talk about their hopes, dreams, and experiences, they take a chance that they will grow in different directions. And when they have little if anything in common, it’s natural for them to feel unhappy together.
Parenting is tough. And when spouses disagree on how to parent, they are in constant conflict.
Should an unhappy couple stay together because of a child or children? Maybe. Researchers found that most couples who are unhappy when their first child is born feel fulfilled a decade later. (Notice that only says the first child.)
- Fantasizing about life without their spouse
If a spouse persistently dreams about life without their mate, then there’s a serious problem that needs to be addressed.
- Not fighting anymore
If spouses don’t even care enough to argue, then they’ve disengaged. And they’re just going through the motions of being married.
- Unmet needs
When spouses refuse to meet each other’s needs, the teamwork, compassion and care necessary for a happy marriage aren’t present.
- Unwillingness to get help or work on the marriage
It happens to virtually every marriage, things go awry at some point. Happily married couples choose to work to fix things when they recognize their marriage feels a bit off. Unhappily married couples don’t.
- Criticism, contempt, defensiveness and/or stonewalling
John Gottman, Ph.D. calls these behaviors The Four Horsemen. Just as The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse depict the end of times in the New Testament, Dr. Gottman has found that these four communication styles can predict divorce.
This is a long list of what makes an unhappy marriage, but it’s not completely. Maybe you see what’s making you wonder about surviving an unhappy marriage in this list. Maybe you don’t. The point here is for you to gain more clarity about why you’re unhappily married.
Now it’s time to look at what it’s costing you to stay.
What’s The Personal Cost Of Staying In A Difficult Marriage?
Living in an unhappy marriage is a big deal. It impacts your entire life because being unhappily married affects you physically, mentally and emotionally.
Some of the ways it impacts your physical wellness include:
- Weakens your immune system
- Wounds take longer to heal
- Increases your blood pressure
- Increases your cholesterol
- You’re more prone to gain weight
- Puts you at increased risk for heart disease, cancer, arthritis, type-2 diabetes, osteoporosis and arterial calcification
- Causes digestive disorders
- Causes hormone imbalance
- Causes poor sleep
- Shrinks your brain
- Kills brain cells and halts new brain cell growth
Some of the ways an unhappy marriage impacts you mentally include:
- Decreases your attention span
- Causes memory problems
- Puts you at greater risk for mental illnesses of all kinds
- Makes it hard for you to think and make decisions
- Increases your risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s
And some of the ways it can affect you emotionally:
- Increases your risk for depression
- Causes you to experience more anger
- Increases general feelings of anxiety
- Increases mood swings
- Increases impatience with yourself and others
Is Surviving An Unhappy Marriage Possible?
It is absolutely possible to survive an unhappy marriage. But is this really how you want to live? Can you see yourself as anything but miserable if your relationship goal is simply surviving an unhappy marriage?
In order to thrive and be happy, something must change. There are three options here for change:
- Your spouse could change
- Your marriage could change
- You could change
The truth is you can only control one of these. And that’s you.
So, if you’re going to thrive and be happy, then you must change. But how should you change?
There’s no quick fix to turning an unhappy marriage around. Just as your marriage didn’t become unhappy in the blink of an eye, fixing it won’t happen quickly either.
However, here are four tips to help you begin to make the necessary changes to turn your marriage around:
- Practice compassion.Being compassionate means you accept that you and your spouse have both been doing the best you can given the circumstances and the knowledge you each possess. Neither of you are perfect, so practicing forgiveness goes along with being compassionate.
- Practice self-care.
When you’re struggling with an unhappy marriage, feeling depressed is a pretty natural response. One way to pull yourself out of the inertia of the situational depression of being unhappily married is to take care of your health and your appearance. It also means doing things that make you happy.
- Invest in honest conversations with your spouse.
Taking the time to honestly, compassionately and responsibly talk about how you’re each feeling can create opportunities for healing, planning for your future together and even falling in love again.
- Ask for help.
Most people try to solve their problems on their own. But the behaviors and thoughts that led to being unhappily married won’t be the ones that will help you turn it around. For that, you’ll need new ideas. Granted you can get tips from Googling and reading articles like this one, but there’s no substitute for talking with a trustworthy person to help you gain a new perspective.
These are just high-level ideas to help you create more happiness and begin to thrive instead of just survive your unhappy marriage. But choosing to stay and put in the hard work to change yourself isn’t your only option.
Maybe. Maybe not. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question.
Do people who divorce eventually find happiness again? Yes, the majority of them do. But, the happiness they find is often after letting go of everything they thought they knew about happiness in the first place.
Simply surviving divorce takes a lot of hard work. It takes even more work to actually thrive on the other side of it. Is it do-able? Absolutely.
What Should You Do?
Surviving an unhappy marriage is possible, but it will only lead to misery. Accepting that your marriage is unhappy, and you need to just deal with it won’t work for you long-term.
You deserve to be happy. You have options. You just need to muster the courage to make the necessary changes and know that you can pursue your dreams again. You don’t have to settle for living in an unhappy marriage.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a life and divorce coach helping people just like you who are looking for advice and support in choosing more than simply surviving an unhappy marriage. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you’re interested in working with me personally, you can book an introductory 30-minute private coaching session with me.